"I think time is running out for him," Jerry Manuel said Friday night before the Mets opened a six-game homestand with a 6-5 loss to the Nationals.
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Delgado has been out since May 11 after hip surgery. He had hoped for an August return with the Mets in the thick of the playoff race. Both turned out to be pipe dreams.
An oblique injury initially set Delgado back. Now the hip is inflamed. He tried to run last Saturday in a desperate attempt to finish the season on the field but couldn't get through it without pain.
"I got checked out a couple of weeks ago and structurally the hip is good," he said. "What they fixed is still fixed. It's just a little inflammation. I'm guilty of trying to come back too soon."
Delgado's motivation to return, even for only a handful of games, is two-fold. First, he's a baseball player and it's his obligation to attempt to play if he can. Second, he's a free agent after the season, and it's difficult to evaluate a 37-year-old whose season ends in May.
"It's been frustrating," he said. "Just because, right around the All-Star break, things were going very, very well and we were planning to go out and run and eventually move over to baseball activities, and had a little flare-up. We had to back off and things weren't going that good.
"And then around August I went down to Port St. Lucie and I started running and doing my baseball activities and had a little flare-up, too. For a while things were going really, really good, really fast, and then all of a sudden it's not so great."
Would the Mets want Delgado back in 2010? They need power sources, and with 473 lifetime home runs, Delgado has always been that. He's making $12 million this season and likely would have to take a huge pay cut in a one-year deal.
Would Delgado want to play for the Mets in 2010? He said yes.
"I like it here," he said. "We have a great team. You walk in this clubhouse, you've got a chance to win. Obviously, we've got to get healthier, but I think we're in the process of doing that. And it offers you a great opportunity. I haven't really talked to the front office in regards to that, but if that's the case, I'd love coming back."
Delgado played in only 26 games this season. He hit .298 with four home runs and 23 RBIs, a pace that would have put him over 25 home runs and well over 100 RBIs if he had 600 at-bats. Last season, he had 598 at-bats and hit .271 with 38 homers and 115 RBIs.
Asked if he thinks he still can be the same player, Delgado said: "Absolutely. Not a doubt."
The Mets wish they could be so certain.
Notes & quotes: The Mets dropped their sixth in a row and 10th in 11 games as Mike Pelfrey (10-11) allowed five runs (four earned) in seven innings. Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Bard hit two-run homers for the Nats. Trailing 6-2 going into the ninth, the Mets scored three runs and had the tying run on third and the winning run on second when Jeff Francoeur grounded out to the mound - literally knocking the glove off the hand of reliever Mike MacDougal.